A Twitter chat highlighting the discrimination Black travelers face when renting through AirBnb has caught on. Users echo various accounts of being unable to book rooms through the peer rental site because of their skin color.
An NPR report discussed the role race plays in finding places to stay as professionals travel for work or recreation. Quirtina Crittenden, a 23-year-old Black consultant from Chicago said she had issues getting a place to stay through AirBnb.
The young professional expressed her frustrations using the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack on Twitter and had an outpouring of support.
“The most common response I got was, ‘oh yeah, that’s why I don’t use my photo.’ Like duh. Like I was the late one,” Crittenden told NPR about her booking experience. “But I got suspicious when I would check back days later and see that those dates were still available.”
The radio company built off the same hashtag and several Black AirBnb users shared their poor experiences. Many involve changing their profiles so that they seem white.
#AirBnBWhileBlack means faking white so you can stay in a place a person faked about being nice and clean.
— Cum Puta Dora (@MelaniaTrap) May 5, 2016
— G. Sel (@_GSelden) May 4, 2016
#AirbnbWhileBlack i have a professional looking profile, a white-friendly witty one liner and assert being educated. What a time.
— Charlie da Casanova (@bigsexydraws) May 5, 2016
— J.L. Reed (@reedjl) April 29, 2016
— JaQe Vokalz Elder (@iVokalz) April 29, 2016
Crittenden also changed the profile picture and name on her profile. She used a city landscape photo and shortened her name to “Tina.”
“Ever since I changed my name and my photo, I’ve never had any issues on Airbnb,” Crittenden said to the station.
A January 2016 study by Harvard Business School backs up users experiences. It showed that guests with African-American sounding names are 16 percent less likely to be accepted for lodging. Michael Luca, who researched the study, thinks the difference in racial preferences is caused by “unconscious biases.”
The study also found that Black renters made less money than their white counterparts. White renters who were seeking guests were willing to loose income rather than give a Black person temporary housing.
For its part, AirBnb has hired a new director of “diversity and belonging” named David King. He says the company knows about the racism on the rental app and that it wants to take the lead in solving it. He says he’s discussing possible resolutions with Luca and others.